I was lost in my thoughts as I sat there, bouncing my knee and clicking my pen. I felt like my skin was on fire – This was it, I have to do better this time, have to do better…I looked at my instructor. Her eyes were piercing, as always.
She smiled a moment and said – “I have your assignments graded from last week.”
I hung onto every word she spoke. I was going crazy. Last time you messed up, this time has to be better, you’ll be better, it’ll be better.
She held our papers in her hands – I felt my insides twist and turn with each passing moment.
This was my writing she was holding – it was everything that defined me as a person, every fiber of my being, the one thing that I knew how to do right. Or, at least, what I thought I did right. Is there a right way to write? Because I find myself questioning my own worth (as an entire person, mind you, not just as a writer) depending on how many idiotic red marks I get on a piece of paper. (Seriously brain? What’s wrong with you?)
I think because I consider my writing as such a huge part of who I am, that it literally is me. Someone taking a red pen to my words is like someone taking a knife to my arms – each correction is a slash that leaves me bleeding. Now by no means am I a professional writer, nor do I think being corrected and critiqued is wrong or bad – actually, collective criticism is very necessary to be successful.
You need to be critiqued on any type of work you do because how the hell are you going to get better if you don’t respect the criticism that is meant to help you?
But nope. My brain doesn’t get it. It’s decided that, with the exorbitant amount of stress from being at a new school, the entirely new environment, the new people, the new everything, that I have to prove myself….to myself.
My brain taunts me – Oh, so you think you’re a writer? You think you’re actually good at what you do? Prove it. I don’t care if you’re stressed. I don’t care if you’re scared. And I don’t Goddamn care about your excuses. I want you to Prove. It.
So I try.
I fumble over myself – Label myself as a “writer” an “artist” a “gamer”, as if I’m supposed to be impressive in some way. Like it’s my job to prove that I’m not a worthless face in a crowd of over 3,000 people at a college campus that isn’t even going to matter in 2 years.
I crumple not only under the weight of the stress, but under the weight of myself – my need to be different, passionate, and exceptional in all and everything I do (and that’s a lot of pressure to put on just one person – I’m only human.)
So I sit there today in my one major-specific class: Writing for Communications.
It’s the only class that I expect myself to excel in… but in that moment, I’m shrouded in self-doubt.
Our instructor says one thing before she hands our papers back.
“I’m impressed with these, pretty much 99% of you did better on this assignment than your last one.“
My panic vanishes – 99%? You did better. You’re in that 99%, you know what you’re doing, you got this. Why did you doubt yourself in the first place? You didn’t even do that bad on the last one, you’re golden.
I wait for a few minutes till she reaches me.
She hands me my paper and continues on to the next student.
I finally look down, and I stop breathing.
My paper is bleeding.
The red marks snarl at me, screaming wrong, wrong, wrong as I scan each correction that makes me feel like a failure. Within seconds, I was bleeding too – although no one could see it.
I was that 1%…
I was the tiny fraction of the class that didn’t seem to learn from their previous mistakes, the tiny fraction that was still “just like everyone else.” – Except not really, because “everyone else” did better this time, and I didn’t.
A voice inside my head laughed – And you think you’re a writer? How adorable.
I shattered in that one moment, over something so stupid, so irrelevant to who I am as a person. But as I said before, my writing and I are one in the same, and if my written words fail me, everything else does too (even though that isn’t really true.)
The funny thing about stress is that even something as small as one assignment, one assignment that I got an over-average grade on, can throw you down a spiraling hole of self-doubt and insecurity. Especially when you take your work as seriously as I do.
So I’m that 1%, but it doesn’t matter, because I know I have to learn from my mistakes. I’ll never get better at what I love to do if I can’t accept I’m not perfect (and trust me, I’m far from perfect.)
I know I’m not a failure. I know I’m a successful writer (and person) in many ways. But I just have to remind myself that this class is meant to teach me what it’s like to write in the real world…and the real world doesn’t hold your hand…it pushes you off cliffs and laughs when you hit rock bottom. But I will learn – we all do eventually.
Can’t be too hard to rise above the 1% when you love what you do, right?
What classes test your sanity? What stresses you in your life? What’s something that encompasses who you are? – Feel free to leave a comment!